Today's New York Times reports on the difficulties furniture manufacturers face in "naming or describing furniture that is designed to defy categorization":
Names and slogans are now “the hardest part of my job,” said Edward M. Tashjian, the vice president for marketing at Century Furniture in Hickory, N.C., who oversees the naming of individual pieces and entire collections. “Literally, every time I do it I want to quit and find a new career.” Coming up with a name for one of the new collections “that’s descriptive and engaging — not to mention hasn’t already been used, isn’t completely banal and meets the approval of the rest of the management team — is a nearly impossible task,” he said. ...
Bernhardt Furniture Company, which in the past has focused on traditional furniture but has lately expanded its repertory, also took several months coming up with the name for a new collection that merges old and new, although its approach was somewhat more adventurous. “We were looking for lifestyle-type names that just kind of sounded young and fresh and updated,” said Heather Eidenmiller, Bernhardt’s director of brand development. “You’ve got to find a name that pulls them in but that would never turn them off,” she added: “A name that can be pronounced, and that doesn’t sound like influenza.” (For a brief moment in 2006, the company considered naming its neo-traditional Wilshire Blvd. line for the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, but “you could just hear people say ‘Pantages is contagious,’” Ms. Eidenmiller said.)
“Fairgrove” was among the early contenders for the new line, but was nixed because it lacked an edge and sounded “too traditional.” “Brentwood” was another possibility, but failed because “it’s a bit neighborhood-y sounding,” Ms. Eidenmiller said, and because of the association with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. “I was like, no, we’re not ready to go there yet,” she said.
Eventually, Bernhardt decided on “Arlington,” after various areas in and around Chicago, and what she called its good “phonetics and sound.” (Apparently no one in the group worried about the national cemetery.)
In what universe, I wonder, is "Fairgrove" deemed "too traditional" and "Arlington" just edgy enough? As brands they're virtually interchangeable: WASPy, old-money, consonant-laden, staid.
By contrast, contract-furniture makers, which outfit workplaces, are much bolder in their naming strategies than the home-furniture industry. Herman Miller, famous for its Aeron chair, also makes products with evocative names like Ambi and Caper and offers accessories in The Be Collection. Steelcase, a client of mine, has product lines called Topo, Detour, and Relevant. (I named a Steelcase chair Amia.)